Questions About John’s Letters

Q. First, thank you for your obedience to our Lord. May our Father bless you and yours, meeting all your needs abundantly and propsering you and yours with peace, health, and spiritual gifts abounding.

I am concerned with two passages from John’s letters. 1 John 5:16-18:

“If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.

He’s clearly speaking of a ‘brother’…someone in the faith. Then he talks about a sin that leads to death, which should not be prayed about, and a sin that doesn’t lead to death, which we should pray about. What is he referring to? And then there’s vs. 18 saying if we continue in sin, we don’t have God because if we are truly born of God, we don’t sin. This scares me. Badly!

And 2 John 1:8-9:
“Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”

Here he speaks of guarding against not losing what we worked for. And then saying that if we run ahead and not continuing in the teaching of Christ we don’t have Christ. Please explain so I may have peace of mind concerning OSAS.

A. The only sin that leads to death is rejecting the Lord’s pardon for our sins. The focus of John’s letter was Gnosticism, a view holding that it isn’t the Lord’s death that brings us forgiveness but the acquisition of secret knowledge. The Gnostics adamantly and persistently denied both the deity of Jesus and the need for His death on their behalf. They believed that Jesus was an ordinary man, that the Holy Spirit came upon him at the beginning of His ministry and left Him before His death. There are several cults and even some liberal denominations that adhere to parts of the gnostic error even today.

Earlier, in 1 John 2:18-19 the Apostle warned of the spirit of anti-Christ in some who have come from among the believers. John was talking about false teachers promoting Gnosticism, and said the fact that these people came out of the Church proves they were never part of it. They were believers in name only and are the “brothers” he was referring to. Preaching the gnostic error is a sin that leads to death because it denies the Lord’s work on the cross. In effect John was saying not to pray for them because they’ve rejected the Lord’s only remedy for their sins and are beyond saving.

All believers sin. In 1 John 1:8-10 John wrote that if we say we have no sin, we’re liars, and in verse 9 he commands us to seek forgiveness when we sin so we can be purified from unrighteousness. As long as we do that, the Lord sees us as if we never sinned in the first place. This is how we appear to not continue to sin.

In 2 John 8, the fact that he warned us to guard against losing what we worked for means means he couldn’t have been talking about salvation because we didn’t work to get saved, it was a free gift. What we do work for is rewards and that’s what he was talking about. The teaching of Jesus can be summed up in John 3:16 and tells us that our salvation is based on belief in Him, period. This is stated repeatedly through out John’s gospel. For John to say something different in his letters would be a contradiction of the Lord’s teaching.

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